Since I sent around our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers the Welsh Government list of funding to food festivals, there have been a lot more questions being asked as to what many of them do with their money. Well I have to say there’s no point asking me, if they want to know they must ask the organisers themselves. As you would expect they all work very differently, have vastly varying priorities and obviously varying amounts of experience of putting on festivals.
I have no idea at all what guidance or maybe restrictions that the government sets on how ‘their’ money is spent, or if that happens. But I do think it is more than time that some priorities were laid down for funded festivals. I think we can all agree that food festivals must have food as their core activity which must therefore mean that food is the priority, which means that producers are paramount. Sadly we know that at many events this is simply not the case. But unless producers vote with their feet and don’t attend, or Wag makes an effort to improve all festivals, producers are in a difficult situation.
One suggestion that I have been thinking about is that a well established, professional producer is invited onto their local festival committee. Their role will be to inform the committee the basics that traders must have and I’m looking at electric that doesn’t fail within the first hour – that’s even if it gets connected in the first place, and traders are not paying through the nose for the ‘honour’ of having that vital power supply. A couple of portable toilets placed near the traders – just for them, so that those having to work solo don’t have to waste precious selling time going on a country hike to take a natural break! They could help on layout of stands as they have a must better idea of traffic flow than anyone, noise levels for music, parking vans, loading and off-loading, number of similar stands – these are all issues that can make a traders life easier or make them feel that this is the last time they waste their hard earned cash at this event. I’m sure they’ll also have lots of additional ideas that would make their event special, not just for them, but for the public too. The trader representative could be the official spokesperson for the event and maybe this would will take pressure away from the organisers and help the event run more smoothly.
There always seem to be complaints from traders about festivals but after running them for years shouldn’t the bulk of the troubles have now been sorted? I know that festivals are run basically by volunteers, but the fact no-one can run away from is that festivals are much-needed income for traders. They are not attending to pay for an exotic holiday, they’re attending to pay their mortgages, pay their council tax and feed their kids. I’m positive that life for organisers would be much easier if communication was better between them and the traders. I am still wondering why traders pay their money but quite often have no idea where they will be sited. Would it be too difficult for organisers to issue a site plan with the tradestands shown and traders can book where they wish. Of course that means that there would be some flexibility in stand prices as those with better traffic flow would be charged at a premium, whilst those on the out edges would be slightly cheaper. Would this work? I know I have had lots of moans about Abergavenny again this year not only from those that couldn’t get accepted but those who have been placed in an area they’d rather not be in. Some organisers have told me that a few traders could be difficult and although you do occasionally get unprofessional guys on the circuit, I just explain, quite patiently, that this is their livelihood and the majority just want to earn some decent money.
At an event this year with very low attendance, I was asked what this festival has done about advertising and marketing. Well that was another question I couldn’t answer apart from the fact they weren’t advertising with Welsh Country, which meant that wouldn’t have sent details around our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers, put up on Welsh Country website or done any editorial in a relevant issue. So I would assume it was local advertising, if any. I’m sure I’m right on my guess that traders, when they book their space, ask what Promotion & Marketing the organisers are going to do, they simply hope and trust that the organisers will have a plan on how to get people into the event – fingers crossed!!!
I’m not 100% sure, but I understand that organisers are allowed to use their own judgement on Promotion & Marketing as they are not directed by Wag, but I must finish off by sharing this story with you. As we finish off our September/October issue, we contacted Conwy Food Festival to see if they wished to work with us, but were told: no we get lots of local editorial and the Welsh Government look after us very well with funding.” Well there’s lots of truth in that with Wag giving them £41k this year, the same amount as they received last year – so lucky Conwy, no budget cuts there, wonder if tradestand prices have come down as they are so financially well looked by Wag.
Abergavenny,Cardiffand Conwy were festivals I have highlighted as being fortunate in not having their funding cut this year and querying why. It was only when we downloaded the Miller Research report that to get around high funding for these three festivals, that they are now classed as ‘Flagship National Events’ and so I guess they can continue to feel confident that Wag will continue to look at this trio very well. Think to summarise it’s down to the producers to speak up if they are not happy and make suggestions for improvements, but I know a few are reluctant to do this as they feel they wont get a stand the following year of be stuck out on the edge. I don’t wish to say they can’t win, I simply think we must just find ways to improve.